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African Challenge, African Hope: Resource-seeking by the Indian State

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Authors: Suresh George & Andrew Amayo

This paper attempts to analyze how the Indian state is managing its institutional strategy in the midst of inter-state competition for energy resources in the African continent. On its way to becoming the third largest economy globally, India is expected to import 61% of its energy resources, while the demand for energy resources by India is expected to outpace that of China by 2035 (BP 2014).

The Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, visited key energy-rich states in the first six months of his election, proving that India is no longer content with playing ‘catch-up’ to other resource-seeking states (Saritha 2014) and is redefining its state-driven energy security strategy.

Energy security is one of the Indian state’s chief strategic and political issues as it seeks to consolidate its economic success over the recent decade. Dadwal and Sinha indicate that over 70% of India’s crude oil demand was met through imports using a mixture of short-term policy mechanisms built on relationships with international oil companies (IOC) and to seek preferential terms from these IOCs. Today, the state is seeking to acquire energy assets overseas and competing with IOCs and National Oil Companies (NOC) within a formal resource-driven approach. India’s growing oil demand has forced the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas to ‘acquire acreages abroad for exploration as well as production.’ (Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas 1999). A new institutional approach that has been enshrined in the state’s ‘India Hydrocarbon vision 2025 report’ clearly points to a more aggressive resource-based approach from the Indian State. This new energy security approach indicates that the state is using multiple approaches to drive resource-seeking, especially in the African context.

These strategies can be broadly classified into the following:

1.A market-based approach of energy security

2. An institutional-based approach using all state and non-state assets to seek and obtain access to energy sources

3.A security-based approach that offers a security umbrella to resource-rich actors.

Some of the specifics of these approaches are:

(i)The Indian state has begun to leverage India’s energy “Buyer Power” to access quality E&P projects abroad or what we would like to define as a market-based energy security approach.

(ii)Diversification of Energy Supply: The Indian state is also considering several diversification options to ensure supply security; hence the need for diversification into new supply sources as well as securing new routes of supply.

(iii)The inclusion of the private sector through the Confederation of Indian Industry’s energy division that has been holding seminars and conferences, increasing the visibility and uptake of the state’s new approach.

(iv)The creation of a specialised energy security cell within the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) that is staffed with career diplomats who have expertise in specific and strategic markets that India would like to access as well as defense and industry experts in the field of energy asset acquisition.

(v)The use of diplomatic and political strategies for the import of energy resources from geographically close states has become an instrument of state policy enshrined in its institutional-based approach. For years, policy mandarins have indicated that state inertia combined with a lack of coordination amongst several ministries prevented the Indian state from competing with China. This is no longer the case apparently.

(vi)Indian foreign policy and its execution by the Foreign Service are of prime importance in this new scenario. The Indian state is moving aggressively to increase the diplomatic corps as well as language /geography specialists.

(vii)The policy of the state to encourage the transportation of crude oil through Indian flag vessels was proposed as a form of its security-based approach. An example of this approach has been the very recent political engagement India is seeking with Indian Ocean states. According to Chatterji (2015) the security-based approach is a response to protect the sea-lanes of communication (SLOC) that transport India’s energy resources as well as to increase the state’s ability to extract resources from newer distant markets.

(viii)The new reality of geostrategy within Asia, with China acting aggressively in both the Indian Ocean and South China Sea, is forcing India to abandon its traditional non-aligned approach and move to aggressively engage its immediate neighbourhood.

The importance of the African continent and renewed focus on East Africa in particular has been visible in the political and economic engagement of the Indian state. In 2011 India imported over 21% of its total oil and gas imports from 8 African countries, with India’s national oil company OVL planning to invest $12 billion, focusing primarily on African connections. (Pradhan 2012) In addition, a joint-venture with ONGC and the Mittal group announced a $6 billion investment in Nigeria to set up a refinery, power plant, and railway infrastructure. (Pradhan 2012)

The Chief Executive of the world oil and gas assembly, Narendra Taneja, has been quoted in Pradhan (2012), stating that ‘today’s growth story is India and in 15 to 20 years the growth story will be Africa. India wants to be in Africa as a strong partner.’ There is a renewed focus on East Africa due to historical connection and the influence of the Indian diaspora within the economic sector of several African states. In addition, the Indian state feels that governments in East Africa are becoming more transparent and willing to do business with Indian firms. Several Indian companies have already been engaging with East Africa for export markets as well as to provide new segments for products and services. As an example, one of India’s largest telecom providers, BHARTI Telecom, is currently one of Africa’s biggest telecom service providers. But in spite of Africa’s potential, India has been slow to engage due to the perceived inability of the state to compete with China in resource-seeking on purely commercial terms as well as the political difficulties of engaging with fairly unstable states in the region.

We attempt to look at this issue through an analysis of India’s involvement in Kenya. The state of Kenya in Africa was chosen partly due to its historical connections to India and the researchers access to key political and economic elite within the Kenyan state. Consideration was also given to Kenya’s status as a new oil producer state, the role of the Indian diaspora in its development, and its recent key engagement with Asian powers. India’s NOC, the Oil and Natural Gas Commission (ONGC), through its overseas exploration subsidiary ONGC Videsh (OVL), has been reported to be considering the takeover of Tullow Oil PLC in Kenya. (Verma 2014) By taking over the company, the Indian state through OVL will have access to existing oil fields in the Turkana region of Kenya as well as the Jubilee oil field in the offshore waters of Ghana. (Verma 2014) This study focuses on three key aspects: the resource-based view approach used by firms; the institutional context of how firms deploy a mixture of resources and institutional capabilities to obtain the best possible competitiveness advantage; and how the state creates and fosters specific policy and institutional environments that support these strategies.

Figure 1 :Author Analysis of existing state owned Oil Assets

Some of the resource-seeking activities of the Indian state in key African markets from (Pradhan 2012) are:

africanmarkets

(i)Nigeria- ONGC and the Mittal group. Another private firm, the Essar group, is reported have procured exploration and production blocks in Nigeria as well. The Gas authority of India Ltd (GAIL) is also looking to invest in a liquefied natural gas plant in Nigeria.

(ii)Egypt – The Gas authority of India Ltd (GAIL) is reported to have entered into a joint venture with Egyptian natural gas (NATGAS) to distribute gas in Egypt.

(iii)Mozambique- Reliance industries and the Essar group have sought official government permission to bid for new exploration and production blocks.

(iv)Sudan – ONGC Videsh (OVL) was expected to invest $200 million in a 741 km pipeline that would link Port Sudan with the capital, Khartoum.

(v)Mauritius – In March 2006 India signed an MoU with Mauritius for the exploration of its offshore waters

(vi)South Africa- India’s negotiating to set up a compressed natural gas network.

(vii)Kenya – ONGC Videsh (OVL) plans to take over Tullow Oil PLC. By taking over the company, the Indian state through OVL will also have access to the offshore waters of Ghana.

Despite historical closeness to the continent as well as geographical proximity, the Indian state has not deployed any of its diplomatic assets or soft power because of the lack of institutional will to truly engage the African continent. The geographical proximity of Africa is one of the key reasons why there was renewed interest in Africa as a market and also due to the resources available in offshore waters. The African continent provides India with a wealth of opportunities in an ocean that the Indian state has dominated. Most of the African states around the Indian Ocean, like South Africa, Mozambique and Tanzania, have historically attracted Indian investment and trade partnerships. In addition, India has been working to nurture relations with other oil-producing states like Nigeria, Ghana, Equatorial Guinea and Cote d’Ivoire. For example, in 2011 India signed a uranium agreement with Namibia and has also used state-owned companies like ONGC Videsh, private owned firms like the Tata group, and Vedanta resources to buy stakes in key resource assets. The potential of Africa as an alternative to dependence on the Middle East was also pursued by the Indian government through special government-to-government supply contracts as well as through special lifting quotas of oil resources. There is still much to be done to see the full realization of Indian development on the African continent. But progress is being made and the future will likely only see more intensive engagement and pursuit of mutually beneficial activities. Much of the literature today focuses on China’s presence in Africa. May this be the first step in making more realize how important a player India will be there as well.

(*) Andrew Amayo is a member of the faculty at Birmingham City University in the UK.

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Into the Sea: Nepal in International Waters

Sisir Devkota

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A visit to the only dry port of Nepal will immediately captivate busy scenes with hundreds of trucks, some railway carriages and huge Maersk containers at play. Trains from the Port of Kolkata in India carry tons of Nepal’s exports every week. Every year, Nepal is fined millions of rupees for overstaying its containers at the designated dock in Haldiya Port of Kolkata. Nepal pays for spaces inside Indian ships to carry out its exports via the sea. This is the closest Nepal has come in exploiting economic opportunities through sea waters. Prime Minister KP Oli went one step further and presented an idea of steering Nepal’s own fleets in the vast international sea space. While his idea of Nepal affording its own ship was mocked; on the contrary, he was right. The idea is practical but herculean.

To start with, Nepal has a landlocked right to use international waters via a third country for economic purposes only. Law of the Sea conferences held during the 80’s, guarantees Nepal’s right to use the exclusive economic zone all around the globe. Article 69 of the Law of the Sea convention states that Nepal could both use sea as a trading route and exploit the exclusive economic zone of its sea facing neighbors. Nepal’s closest neighbor, India has a wide exclusive economic zone which consists of 7500 km long coastline. The article also allows landlocked nations to use docking facilities of the nearest coastal nation to run its fleets. An exclusive economic zone in sea waters is designated after a coastal nation’s eleven mile parallel water boundary ends; which is also a part of the coastal nations territory. Simply put, Nepali fleets can dock at India’s port, sail eleven miles further into international waters-carry out fishing and other activities, sail back to the Indian coast and transfer its catches back to Nepal.

Floating Challenges

Before ships can carry the triangular flag into sea waters, Nepal will need treaties in place to use coastal nation’s water to take off and build shipment facilities. Law of the Sea convention clearly mentions that the right to use another nation’s coast will depend solely on the will of the hosting coastal nation. Does Nepal have the political will to communicate and forge a comprehensive sea transit agreement with its coastal neighbors? Nepal’s chance of securing fleets in and around the Indian Ocean will depend on whether it can convince nations like India of mutual benefits and cancel any apprehension regarding its security that might be compromised via Nepal’s sea activity. The convention itself is one among the most controversial international agreements where deteriorating marine ecosystems, sovereignty issues and maritime crimes are at its core. Majority of global and environmental problems persist in the high seas; ranging from territorial acquisitions to resource drilling offences. Nepal is welcome into the high seas, but does it comprehend the sensitivity that clouts sea horizons? Nepal needs a diplomatic strategy, but lacking experience, Nepal will need to develop institutional capacities to materialize the oceanic dream. Secondly, the cost of operating such a national project will be dreadfully expensive. Does the Nepali treasury boast finances for a leapfrogging adventure?

How is it possible?

The good news is that many landlocked nations operate in international waters. Switzerland, as an example might not assure the Nepali case, but Ethiopia exercising its sea rights via Djibouti’s port could be inspiring. Before Nepal can start ordering its fleets, it will need to design its own political and diplomatic strategy. Nepal’s best rationale would lie in working together with its neighbors. The South Asian network of nations could finally come into use. Along with Nepal, Bhutan is another landlocked nation where possible alliances await. If India’s coasts are unapproachable, Nepal and Bhutan could vie for Bangladeshi coastlines to experience sea trading. Maldivian and Pakistani waters are geographically and economically inaccessible but Sri Lanka lies deep down the South Asian continent. If Nepal and Bhutan can satisfy Sri Lankan interests, the landlocked union could not only skim through thousands of nautical miles around the Bay of Bengal without entering Indian water space; but also neutralize the hegemonic status of India in the region. If such a multinational agreement can be sought; SAARC- the passive regional body will not only gain political prowess but other areas of regional development will also kickstart.

Most importantly, a transit route (such as the Rohanpur-Singhdabad transit route) from Bangladesh to Nepal and Bhutan will need to be constructed well before ships start running in the Indian Ocean. In doing so, Nepal will not only tranquilize Nepal-Bhutan relations but also exercise leadership role in South Asia. A regional agreement will flourish trade but will also make landlocked Nepal’s agenda of sailing through other regions of international sea strong and plausible. A landlocked union with Bhutan will trim the costs than that of which Nepal will be spending alone. Such regional compliance would also encourage international financial institutions to fund Nepal’s sea project. Apart from political leverages, Nepal’s economy would scale new heights with decreasing price of paramount goods and services. Flourishing exports and increased tourism opportunities would be Nepal’s grandiloquence. Nepal’s main challenge lies in assuring its neighbors on how its idea would be mutually beneficial. Nepal’s work starts here. Nepal needs to put together a cunning diplomatic show.

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hug Diplomacy Fails

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s enthusiasm is only to capture power; the same, however, cannot be said of foreign policy administration, especially in dealing with our immediate neighbors, and China. The best examples of his policy paralysis are the way in which demonetization and GSTs are implemented, or his sudden visit to Pakistan in December 2015. He is always in election mode. During the first two years, he was in the humor of a general election victory. Thereafter, he has spent much of his energy in establishing himself as the sole savior of the BJP in state elections, and this year he will turn his attention to the 2019 general elections.

Two years ago, without doing any homework or planning, Modi travelled to Pakistan from Afghanistan to greet his counterpart, the then Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, to wish him well on his birthday. He hugged Sharif and spent only two hours with him to try to sort out the 70 year outstanding divergence between India and Pakistan.

Modi strategically hugs fellow world leaders. He has no strategic perception. He believes only in the power of his personal charisma in dealing with foreign policy matters. This strategy has failed considerably with China and with our other immediate neighbors, but he neither intends to accept these mistakes, nor is he interested in learning from them. More importantly, an alternative diplomatic strategy is necessary to maintain our international position; through prudent policy articulations. Let us examine the impact of his hug diplomacy.

During the 2013/14 general elections campaign he attacked the Congress-led UPA government on multiple fronts, including towards former Prime Minister Dr.Manmohan Singh’s policy on Pakistan. He proposed that the BJP government would have more guts to better deal with Pakistan. Under his administration, we lost numerous soldiers in fighting with Pakistan terrorists, experienced a 100-day shutdown in Kashmir, blindly allowed a Pakistan team to inspect our Pathankot Air Force Station, and generally continued down a visionless path in foreign policy. These indicate that Modi’s defensive and offensive strokes against Pakistan have failed completely, including the most politicized ‘surgical strike’ that did not contain the terrorists from Pakistan. Today, the Modi government is searching for policy directions in handling Pakistan, but sat in a corner like a lame duck.

In the beginning, when he took office, Modi perhaps believed that ‘everything is possible’ in international affairs simply by virtue of occupying the prime minister seat. Further, he thought that all his visits abroad would bring a breakthrough. His hugs with counterparts, various costume changes, and the serving of tea, indicate that our prime minister is using soft power approaches. These approaches were used by our first Prime Minister Nehru whilst India did not have a strong military or economy. However, India is not today what it was in the 1950/60s. Presently, hugging and changing costumes will not necessarily keep India influential in international relations, especially at a time when the world is undergoing multi-polar disorder. However, he is in continuous denial that his paths are wrong, especially in dealing with our neighbors.

What is the BJP led-NDA government policy on Pakistan? Does this government have any policy for Pakistan? Since 2014,Modi has not permitted the Minister of External Affairs, Sushma Swaraj, to contribute to any foreign policy articulations. As long as Sushma fulfills the duty of Ministry of Indian Overseas Affairs she will receive praise from the prime minister’s office.

During 2015 he met Sharif at his residence in Islamabad to give him a hug. This happened exactly two years ago. Further, this is a very serious question that the Media and Modi-supporting TV channels forgot to raise. Instead, without hesitation, they praised him for touching the sky, and described the moment as a diplomatic initiative for a breakthrough with our neighbor Pakistan. The Media will realize this mistake when their traditional viewers switch over to other channels to get centrist news.

What are the outcomes of Modi hugging Sharif at his residence? The results are terrible. India’s relation with Pakistan touches the lowest ever level in a history of 70 years. The Mumbai terror attack mastermind Hafiz Saeed was released from house arrest and has started a political party to contest the general elections in Pakistan next year. This government does not have the guts to put pressure on Pakistan to provide the evidence – as requested by the Pakistan’s Court – essential to keeping the trial alive against Saeed. Modi has often preached that his government succeeded in isolating Pakistan in the international domain. The reality would be as much India diplomatically isolating Pakistan from the international community as the vacuum has been comfortably filled by China without any difficulty. These are the achievements that Modi’s hugs have brought to India.

The stability of Afghanistan is in India’s long-term strategic interest. India’s ‘aid diplomacy’ to Afghanistan in various fields has been increasing day after day, including infrastructure development and the training of Afghan security forces. Yet, India’s influence in Afghanistan is in disarray. Former Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai said, “India should have its own policy on Afghanistan”. However, Modi’s policy makers in New Delhi are expecting the US President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to maintain India’s active and significant role in Afghanistan.

India showed its displeasure during the constitutional crisis in Nepal, in halting energy supply to Kathmandu. This forced the land-locked country to obtain easy support from Beijing. Nepal was once the buffer state between India and China; it is now sitting on China’s lap and steering India. Modi’s mute approach to the Rohingya crisis speculates India’s major power ambition. This is a serious setback to India’s diplomacy: it is now pushing Myanmar to get support from China, along with our neighbor Bangladesh, in resolving the crisis with Rohingya refugees.

The first democratically elected government under Mohamed Nasheed was toppled unconstitutionally in Maldives. Since India has failed to raise any substantial voice against this atrocity, China has jumped onto the scene. New Delhi ought to have designed a policy to resolve the political crisis, but India, the world’s largest democracy, has watched this incident as a movie in the Indian Ocean Theatre. The highlight was the decision of our Prime Minister to skip a visit to the Maldives whilst on his tour of the Indian Ocean islands.

In Sri Lanka, China is designing its future battlefield against India. As the war against LTTE was over, Colombo started travelling in a two-way track, with India and China. Beijing’s love affair, apparently with Colombo, but with an eye on New Delhi, is no secret. Since Modi has allowed these developments without exercising any diplomatic resistance, he has given China a comfortable seat inside Sri Lanka. China has now realised that her weaved network against India can be strengthened easily in the Indian Ocean, because New Delhi only displays silent concern. After Modi took office, India – China relations have remained static. The border talks are on stand still. Beijing holds on to extend a technical hold on Masood Azhar, a UN designated terrorist. The dragon pulls our immediate neighbors to her side. These developments indicate that our foreign policy articulations are not supported by any clear strategic trajectory.

Modi’s diplomacy is like an air balloon which, once torn, cannot be refilled; a new balloon is needed. Hugging a leader does not lead to any commitment in foreign affairs. Personal charisma does not work as a foreign policy tool in dealing with a world power. For this reason, Modi cannot understand the setback he is facing with China, Pakistan, and our other neighbors. In comparison, Vajpayee’s or Dr. Manmohan Singh’s combined simple charisma as leaders or economists with appropriate home-work in the past; has caused tremendous results in foreign policy, including expected results in Indo-US nuclear negotiations. This is completely missing in Modi’s administration.

Hence, the newly elected Congress Party President Rahul Gandhi has said, “Modi’s hug diplomacy fails”. It was a valuable comment that the ruling elite should consider as a meaningful insight. Alternative approaches are vital to regain our neighbors’ trust, as opposed to China’s. However, Prime Minister Modi’s this year of work will be focused on the 2019 general elections, compromising the proper attention due to India’s international diplomacy.

First published in Congress Sandesh

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Potential Consequences of Nuclear Politics in South Asia

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Established in 1948, Indian atomic energy commission turned towards United Kingdom for their first help in the making of Apsara. Subsequently, with a similar vision, the CIRUS reactor was supplied by Canada, where, the heavy water came from the United States.

India, over the years, has built a nuclear program that has led to the making of a number of reactors. India’s 1974 “Peaceful nuclear explosion” implies to their hegemonic ambitions as India has the capacity to produce around 300-400 nuclear weapons. The continuous upgradation of weapons by India could lead her as a hegemon nuclear power that can deeply unsettle Pakistan and China.

Calling into question India’s stated intentions, when it comes to nuclear tests, the plutonium for its 1974 and 1998 tests was diverted from its “civilian” nuclear facilities. After 1974, India continued to claim its explosion was “peaceful” and advocated global nuclear disarmament, even as it rejected proposals by Pakistan to denuclearize South Asia.

From Pokhran-I to Operation Shakti, India has traditionally relied on plutonium and thermonuclear technology. In 1992, the then Chairman of Department of Indian Atomic Energy  acknowledged that India had succeeded in the past for achieving the target of highly enriched uranium, while the centrifuge program was facing critical and technical hindrances. Also, it was admitted by the former Chairman of AEC, Raja Ramanna that India was working to produce more efficient centrifuges which were used for military purposes.  At the peak of all these developments, it is important to note that thermonuclear weapons have far more destructive power than a nuclear bomb.

India may also be considering using its civil power reactors to increase its stock of weapon-grade plutonium. Robert Einhorn, the State Department’s former top nonproliferation official told the Carnegie International Nuclear Policy Conference in March that the officials in the Bush administration had the ambition to sign a nuclear deal with India, to “work together to counter China- to be a counterweight to an emerging China.” He further expressed his views that the nuclear deal had unfortunate repercussions, because other nations concluded that Washington was playing favorites with India.

India is the only country in the region having uranium reserves that are higher than what other countries in the region hold. India has already received roughly 4,914 tons of uranium from France, Russia, and Kazakhstan, and it has agreements with Canada, Mongolia, Argentina, and Namibia for additional shipments. It also signed a uranium deal with Australia that has sparked considerable controversy at home.

This massive production of uranium annually can support its nuclear submarine program and current weapons grade plutonium production rate indirectly. These uranium reserves are enough for approx. 6-10 bombs per year.

Adding a twist to the existing fissile material build-up process, the Indo-US strategic partnership supplemented it. Under this dangerous bargain, it would continue to not only allow India to increase its fissile material but also the capacity to increase the build-up of nuclear weapon material.

Hence, the strategic stability in South Asia has been negatively impacted since the initial stages due to the hegemonic designs which India pursued with the start of CIRUS reactor. With the passage of time, the Indo-US nuclear deal and Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) waiver have already added more repercussions and now the discriminatory move to try to facilitate Indian NSG membership will further erode the strategic stability in South Asia.

Indian NSG membership and its potential exemption has adverse implications on non-proliferation regime. This has allowed India to expand its military program. As a result of 2008 exemption it has signed a number of agreement in nuclear domain with different countries. Interestingly, Mansoor Ahmed states that India has the capacity to utilize the uranium it is importing from these countries to produce more bombs.  The aforementioned reasons sum up India’s keenness to obtain NSG’s membership. This U.S.-backed move to make India a member of the NSG will be good neither for Pakistan nor for China, and it would set off nuclear instability in the region.

While looking at the dynamics of left alone Pakistan since late 1990’s, starting from Indo-US strategic partnership to now this geoploliticising of NSG. Consequently, this shall allow India to use all this a means of making the most optimum use of all its natural uranium stocks for weaponization. To offset the stakes, it might be prudent to have a close check on the international architects of India’s nuclear build-up. The alleged misuse of U.S. and Canadian controlled items by India must be enough to refrain from any cooperation if it is not abiding by group’s guidelines and commodity control list.

Furthermore, the more discriminatory the international nuclear order becomes, the less would be the effectiveness of deterrence and strategic balance in the region. The NSG will have to identify that India’s 1974 nuclear explosive test was the reason that nuclear supplier states established the NSG. It must also emphasize upon its commitment to uphold the principles of the nonproliferation.

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